I lied twice in the job interview, but I still got the job.
The first lie was when I told them I was actually interested in working nights, or that I even preferred it.
The second lie was when they asked me about my GPA. I told them I had a 3.0, but I actually only had a 2.934.
But I needed to do something! I was unemployed for eight months before that. “Prestigious” corporations rejected me. Sears didn’t want to give me an hourly job. I wanted to sell snacks aboard an Amtrak train, but they said no.
I figured my best chance was to do the jobs that nobody else wanted to do. Whether it meant cleaning toilets, bathing old people who just soiled themselves or working 2 a.m. to 10 a.m.
But I got the job and a salary that would be considered normal for entry level. I was happy for the first time in eight months. Lining up for the commuter bus in the morning, I finally felt like I was part of the exclusive club that I wanted to be a member of for so long.
But when my training period was over and the night shift finally started, “it’s not that bad” quickly became “this fucking sucks.”
The blaring alarm clock waking me up at the same time others usually go to bed felt like someone was punching me in the chest and I was going into cardiac arrest.
I just couldn’t adjust to the hours of being awake from 2 a.m-10 a.m from Monday to Friday and then going to regular hours for the weekend. I developed bad habits. I would constantly blink my eyes and shake my head to keep myself awake during daylight hours. I didn’t realize I was doing this until my mom asked me, “Is something wrong? Why do you keep blinking and shaking your head?”
I also ate like shit and developed a gut. My diet consisted of microwave chicken patties, pickles, Wendy’s, breakfast sandwiches and gyros with fries.
But I did it for over a year and I survived. Some people are still doing it for almost five years now. I don’t know how they’re doing it. I’d probably be dead if I did it that long.
For anyone working the third shift and struggling, here are seven ways I learned to deal with it.
1. Workout two times the amount that you normally would
I was pretty cheap so I thought the prices for gym memberships in New York City were ridiculous. But there was a 24-hour gym around the corner from where I worked. They offered a night-owl discount so I took advantage of that.
I would workout for an hour, go to work, and then I’d run for a few miles after work. If I only did one workout I would have trouble sleeping. But with the additional run when I got home, I’d have no trouble sleeping.
I’d go into a deep restorative sleep with happy dreams until the alarm clock would go off and give me cardiac arrest again.
Double the amount you workout and you’ll have no trouble sleeping.
2. Do yoga
I would roll into work around 1:30 a.m. Work for a bit. Then around 5:30 a.m. I’d doze off in my chair for about 30 minutes and my neck would be in an awkward position. That comes out to 150 minutes per week and 10 hours per month that my neck was in an awkward position. I started to develop some pains in my neck and back.
I was on a break from yoga at the time ,but I started taking classes again and felt a relief in my neck where the pain and stiffness used to be.
Yoga would usually be the second workout of the day that I mentioned above. I eventually mixed it up between yoga and running.
Also, your stress levels are probably higher on the third shift. Doing yoga can help you manage your stress.
3. Still live your life
Most of the action takes places between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. If you’re working midnight to morning, you’re missing out on all that. But you shouldn’t.
While I was working the third shift, I still went out to happy hours, concerts and on dates. I wasn’t going to let my working hours keep me from enjoying other things in life.
Sometimes I’d get shitfaced at happy hours and go straight to the office at 10pm and take a nap in the conference room before I started my shift. I planned it that way so I could maximize my sleeping time. I lost sleep and showed up to work exhausted because I chose to have some fun. That’s okay.
That leads into my next point…
4. Just show up
A cashier rang me up at the grocery store this morning, a customer service representative answered a question I had over the phone and later I’ll be heading out to the golf course where I’ll most definitely run into someone who is ditching out of work a bit early to play some golf.
These people all have something in common: They didn’t feel like showing up to work this morning.
People who don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning do most of the world’s work. As a worker on the third shift, you’re in the same boat. And just by showing up you’re on the same playing field as everyone else.
“But Joe…you don’t understand. My job is important. I need to be alert at all times.”
No you don’t. You just need to be alert enough. If shit hits the fan, your adrenaline kicks in and you won’t feel how tired you are.
Once, I was sleepwalking through the motions at work, when I realized I took down a database. I was wide-awake all of a sudden. I had to fix the problem—which I did—before someone found out and the nonstop nagging would begin.
5. Ignore your bosses
The only bosses I respected were the ones who worked the night shift at some point. They seemed to be more empathetic with what it was actually like. I tuned everyone else out because these people had opinions but never walked a mile in our shoes.
6. Do a colon cleanse
This was unintentional. But I ate something bad and shit and puked my brains out. Every time I ate or drank something, my body would expunge it within a minute or two. I couldn’t leave the apartment. I stayed in bed in complete misery for a few days—dealing with fever, chills, shitting and puking.
But I woke up one morning feeling a billion percent better. I felt empty and clean like I’ve never felt before. My body got rid of all the crap that accumulated in it over time.
When you work the night shift, your body’s crapping cycle gets thrown out of whack along with everything else. Some kind of cleanse will help you keep the pipes clean. I don’t know if this is backed by science, but it sounds accurate.
A quick search for “night shift health effects” reveals that you’re at risk for heart disease, ulcers, obesity, diabetes, depression and accidents.
What doesn’t put you at risk for these nowadays?
If you like working nights, then keep doing it. If you don’t, then quit. You probably have reasons why you can’t quit, you get paid more, you need time during the day, etc. That’s fine. But there are solutions to all of these.
I was getting fat, tired and depressed. So I had to do something. I used my free daytime hours to go on job interviews and eventually landed something to get me out of my own destructive cycle.
But that was also the beginning of another destructive cycle…
Joe Choi is a direct response copywriter for health and tech companies. He usually tries something completely new every two years to shake things up in life. Through all these shake ups, his addiction to golf, yoga, avocados, tuna cooked rare, donuts and beef jerky have remained the same. You can find him on his local golf course, yoga studio or writing about a bunch of things at fescuefairways.com.
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Ed. Wendy Keslick/Kate Bartolotta